With one week left until GUM #2 The Future Edition is released, the editor reflects on the future of media.
Not many things get people excited anymore. The greatest turn-ons of the year seem to be the Superbowl Half-Time Show, People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive and the Academy Awards Ceremony. (Don’t get me wrong, I do not wish to diminish celebrity achievements. I have like everyone else been haunted by wet dreams of Leonardo DiCaprio grabbing a phallic golden statuette and I am also massively impressed by Beyoncé’s twerking skills.)
But the more I flick through online newsfeeds and social media channels, the more I realise that the media is a circus. And the readers are the clowns that perform in it. I wish we could be as graceful as the elephants. But we remain clowns with masks that obscure how we perceive the world – pale and white, ghoulishly laughing, with black tear stains.
Events and news that matter remain somewhat concealed to us. Those moments are rare that silence the buzz of sensationalism. Those moments that cut like a razor through everything and make the world crystal clear. Those moments where we are confronted with The Real.
One such moment happened in 2013 when Internet activist Aaron Swartz died. During his entire life, Swartz propagated for the freedom of information to all, maintaining that access to the Internet is a human right. When he studied at MIT, he downloaded millions of academic articles from JSTOR to make the point that these journals should be available to everyone – that knowledge should not be exclusive to a rich élite. Swartz was subsequently charged with intent to commit a felony and an overzealous list of prosecutorial charges dragged on for the next two years. The sad event of Swartz’ suicide was mourned across the globe and awoke the world to the importance of freedom of information.
Another heart-stopping moment occurred when whistle-blower Edward Snowden left his post at the NSA in Hawaii and fled to Hong Kong with thousands of classified documents. These documents exposed illegal telecommunications and online surveillance, not just of American citizens, but also of people worldwide. With roguish charm, Snowden managed to fool the US government and an entire press core when he booked several airline tickets and escaped to Moscow. Since then, Snowden has expertly eluded all his persecutors and has had reporters chase their tails for an interview. Now he has become an icon for something larger than himself: everyone’s fundamental right to privacy.
A third moment took place in 2015, when hacktivist group Anonymous interrupted Fox News. For a minute and a half, the Guy Fawkes-mask invaded the TV screens of American homes with the message: ‘We are anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us!’. Soon the reel was shown across the world. It proved that the Internet collective of jokesters and trolls had become a serious political movement in its own right with powers to influence and effect change. The Internet has thus become an arena for people to express their opinions on equal grounds. Anonymous has facilitated the public demonstrations of these opinions, united by a common goal: the freedom of expression.
These are the moments that matter, that break through all the noise and reveal something resembling the truth. Some say that print media is dying, but it does not mean that the media is less important. On the contrary, the media and our continual engagement with it are more important than ever. It does not mean we should stop enjoying celebrity news. It means that the freedom of information, the right to privacy and the freedom of expression should not be taken for granted. The way we exercise these rights will define our generation.
Personally, I believe it is high time to wash off our clown faces; step into the ring of the circus and claim ownership of what is ours.
By Sofia Linden
For more information on moments the earth skipped a beat… Watch the following excellent documentaries:
The Internet’s Own Boy (2014), directed by Brian Knappenberger
Citizenfour (2014), directed by Laura Poitras
We Are Legion (2012), directed by Brian Knappenberger